I really thought I could handle the death of non-family members well enough to someday even help with hospice. As a Stephen Minister with my church, I already try to help those who have been left behind. But last week, I was forced to realize something - some of those non-family losses are still very hard to accept.
My wonderfully, sweet neighbor, and owner of the other side of my townhome, passed away. For nearly 10 years, Stan Hamilton was a fixture in my life with his characteristic grin and great sense of humor. He was also the first person I met in our community when I was looking to buy. He graciously allowed a real estate agent, who was showing me another floor plan, to invade his home so that I could see a different layout option.
Long story short, we became friends over the years. He even served as the editor of my first book before I queried publishers, and after that, he was one of the most supportive people of my writing. As an author, former reporter and editor, he was the perfect mentor too. I think he was also the one to suggest I join Kansas Authors Club, an organization that has served me well.
Stan was always the perfect neighbor - quiet and caring. He brought the newspaper from my driveway to my mailbox on the house so that I could easily retrieve it. Although I constantly worried that he might fall using his cane, he told others that it was one of the things that brought joy to him. I could only reciprocate by bringing him an occasional dinner or treat, and then most recently, drag his trash/recycle bins out of his garage for pick-up. I thought I would lose him to assisted living someday, but not entirely.
My two sons, as well as any visitors, became well acquainted with Stan. He could often be seen riding his stationary bike with his garage door open, something he always tried to do, even in his frail condition. There was always a friendly hello to anyone nearby, and I usually made a point to stop by his door to let him see my grand-dog when Danny visited overnight.
It was a always a pleasure, too, to see Stan's family over the years. I know my tears pale in comparison to theirs, but what a legacy this kind and gentle spirit left! I will never pull into my garage without thinking of Stan next door and wishing he were still with us.
I saw Stan just a day or two before his stroke. I was getting into my
car, racing to a meeting, and he was going to the group mailboxes across
the street. We spoke just briefly about what we were doing, contrary to
our normal routine to stop and chat, but we were both on a mission that
day. I had no idea it would be the last time we would talk.
When I visited Stan in the hospital (after his stroke, subsequent heart attack with discovery of 70% blockage, bleeding ulcer, and pneumonia), he was heavily sedated. I hope he knew that I was there and heard me say, "God is going to have a lot of fun with Stan." And I truly believe that is what's happening now.